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Horror Low Budget Movies That Made Millions

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Here's one way to hit the lottery, figuratively speaking: come up with a great, new idea for a horror low budget film, scrape up just enough money to make it, hope you happen to land at a quality distributor, build some word of mouth, and then sell tons of tickets all over the world. It's easy, right? Well, no. It's actually quite difficult, and there is also some luck involved. But here's a solid handful of classic horror films that pulled it off.

Horror Low Budget Movies That Pulled It Off

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The "found footage" approach to horror filmmaking was not invented by The Blair Witch Project, but it was the first low budget film to use the technique to its creepiest (and most profitable) potential. The story itself is rather simple (three young filmmakers trek into the ominous woods of Maryland and quickly get lost) but the voyeuristic filmmaking style and the sly, subtle scares proved we were dealing with something a lot cleverer than your basic horror indie movies. And to say that the mysterious, internet-based marketing campaign helped this low budget film make a lot of money would be a massive understatement. Film production budget: $500,000 / box office haul: $249,000,000 / sequels & remakes: 2

Paranormal Activity (2009)

Clearly inspired by the unassuming smash hit that the low budget film The Blair Witch Project became, another group of filmmakers tried their hand at "DIY" horror film, and man did they happen to hit the jackpot in this case. Once again, the premise couldn't be simpler: a young couple finds themselves haunted by an invisible presence, so they set up a bunch of cameras to see what's going on. But it was the presentation and the legitimate scares that audiences responded to, and boy did they. Film production budget: $230,000 / box office haul: $193,000,000 / sequels & remakes: 7

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George Romero low budget film and zombie classic has inspired more movies, books, TV shows, and video games than anyone could accurately count, but his celebrated debut was also a massively important film in the area of representation. And while George Romero never hid his classic horror film's attempts at social commentary, he never forgot how to deliver a dark, fascinating, and entertaining horror film. Also, he practically created what we consider the "modern" zombie, so maybe raise a glass to the man the next time you're enjoying a crazy zombie attack. Film production budget: $125,000 / box office haul: $30,000,000 / sequels & remakes: 7

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George Romero's low budget film and zombie classic has inspired more movies, books, TV shows, and video games than anyone could accurately count

Psycho (1960)

Often cited as the progenitor of the slasher flick, Alfred Hitchcock's classic film production chiller was not just a pop culture sensation; it was also a massive smash at the box office. In 1960, moviegoers were not exactly prepared for a few of the classic horror film's more memorable moments, including the early misdirect, the shock ending, and the now-legendary shower scene. It's safe to say that Hitchcock's scariest film struck a chord with moviegoers; it became his most profitable movie in short order. Film production budget: $807,000 / box office haul: $50,000,000 / sequels & remakes: 4
 

Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter's endlessly cool and unexpectedly classy slasher classic exploded in late 1978 -- for several years it was the most profitable of all indie movies at the time -- but it has stood the test of time simply because it's a masterfully constructed thriller that boasts a smart screenplay, a great cast, and more sustained suspense than most classic horror films even attempt. Feel free to dive into the massive franchise after that, but it's the original low budget film you'll keep coming back to every October. Film production budget: $325,000 / box office haul: $70,000,000 / sequels & remakes: 11

Saw (2004)

This breakout smash may not have been a "micro-budget" film production, but it's certainly close enough to qualify, it kickstarted a massive franchise that was ridiculously successful at the box office, and (not surprisingly) a big hit with the genre fans. Say what you will about the circuitous sequels -- I kind of enjoy the soap operatic nonsense of it all -- but there's a lot about the original Saw movie that's really impressive: it's a unique blend of whodunnit, suspense, and outright horror; it's got some movie stars having some gruesome fun; and it's got a butt-kicker of a twist ending that had genre fans buzzing for weeks.  Film production budget: $1,200,000 / box office haul: $104,000,000 / sequels & remakes: 8


Hopefully, this article will make some aspiring creators of indie movies feel better; you don't need a ton of money to make a great horror movie. You just need a really good idea and some fantastic filmmakers. So the money is probably the easy part.

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